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Sunderbans: Hindu devotees worship Muslim goddess to protect them from Tigers

The terrain is hard to live on and the native people rely on Bon Bibi to help them through the hardships

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Goddess Bonbibi
Goddess Bonbibi in Sunderbans. Image source: beingkinetic.wordpress.com
  • Bon Bibi is the “Lady of the Forest”
  • She protects travelers and workers in the jungle
  • Bon Bibi reminds the people not to take more than they need

Bon Bibi is the “Lady of the Forest.” She is the protector of those who venture into the nature setting. The story goes that she was brought to the Netidhopani forest, which is located in the western edge of Sundarbans jungles. History says, that she hails from Saudi Arabia and her father, who was a trader, left her in the forest. It was her step-mother who requested that the child be left in the forest, and her father followed orders.

Later on, she became the protector of all who enter the forest. It makes no difference if you are Muslim, Hindu, or Christian; all who enter the forest pay their respects to Bon Bibi. Bhabotaron Paik the forest guard says, “Each time we go to the jungles we make a promise to Ma Bon Bibi: that we will not take more than we require from the forest, or else we antagonise her”.

Bon Bini statue resting in a tree in the forest. Wikimedia Images.
Bon Bini statue resting in a tree in the forest. Wikimedia Images.

According to Firstpost.com, Bon Bibi’s temple is at the entrance of the forest preserve that Paik works at. Every day, as part of his routine, he first visits the temple and pays his respects. Nearby there is a small freshwater pond that the forest department constructed for wildlife. The Bengal tigers, frequent this area that is across from a heavily fenced in office area.

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A board near the water has postings that tell the usual hours that the tigers come to drink. The pug marks and cameras located at the watch towers can track their movements. Years ago, all of these efforts were futile when Debnath Mondal, a tiger rescuer, was attacked by a tiger near to Bon Bibi’s temple, said the Firstpost.com report.

At night it is pitch black. Theater performers reenact the story of Bon Bibi, and many gather near the shrines to watch the performances. To them, it is also a way to show their respect to Bon Bibi and show the solidarity among everyone. Many keep statues of the deity in their bags, or somewhere on their person. Nityanand Roy Karmakar, a forest ranger, says “The goddess enlightens people to go back as soon as their requirement is fulfilled, that is keeping the order of the jungles.”

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The terrain is hard to live on and the native people rely on Bon Bibi to help them through the hardships. Freshwater and saltwater are constantly mixing and dry areas get washed away by large waves. This makes it difficult to draw boundaries and put up fences to divide humans and nature; forcing them to coexist. The people in the area never hesitate to thank Bon Bibi for all she does.

-prepared by Abigail Andrea, an intern at NewsGram. Twitter: @abby_kono

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World Wildlife Conference to Discuss Tackling Illegal Trade in Endangered Wild Fauna and Flora

Tackling the illegal trade in endangered wild fauna and flora and strengthening trade rules for fisheries, timber, and exotic pets

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World, Wildlife, Conference
FILE - Radiated tortoises, originally a native species of southern Madagascar, are on display during an annual flora and fauna expo in Jakarta, Indonesia, July 29, 2010. VOA

Tackling the illegal trade in endangered wild fauna and flora and strengthening trade rules for fisheries, timber, and exotic pets are just a few of the many controversial and emotional issues to be discussed over the next two weeks at a World Wildlife Conference opening in Geneva Saturday.

Thousands of delegates are expected to gather at Geneva’s cavernous Palexpo Exhibition center.  They will be lobbying for their pet wildlife projects through elaborate, imaginative displays and persuasive talk fests.

The 183 Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES, is hosting this extravaganza.  CITES sets the rules for international trade in wild animals and plants.

Governments interested in changing the levels of protection that CITES provides have submitted 56 new proposals for discussion.  These, says CITES range from proposals to ensure trade in at-risk species remains sustainable to calls for a ban on trade in species threatened by extinction.

World, Wildlife, Conference
FILE – Conference attendees walk by a display of elephants and other wildlife at The International Union for Conservation of Nature World Conservation Congress on Friday, Sept. 9, 2016, in Honolulu. VOA

One of the hot button issues on the agenda is that of the conservation of African elephants.  Chief of CITES Scientific Services, Tom De Meulenaer, says the debate on trade in elephant ivory has been raging for 25 years.  He says three new proposals will be under debate.

“Two of them are coming from southern African countries and they seek to liberate or to open up trade in ivory again,” said De Meulenaer. “There is a third proposal from other countries in Africa, which is in competition with this one because it seeks to close all trade in ivory.  Obviously, these three proposals are not compatible and will be subject of deliberations by the COP (Conference of the Parties).”

The conference also will consider new wildlife trade rules on an array of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and plants.  A topic likely to generate a lot of interest is whether to exempt musical instruments made of precious wood from trees protected by CITES.

Bass guitars, violins, clarinets and other musical instruments are made wholly or partially from Rosewood and other precious woods.  Organizers promise a fascinating debate with prominent members of the music industry.

Also Read- First CNG station Opened in Dibrugarh, Assam

One of the overarching problems threatening the survival of many wild animals and plants is that of illegal international trade in wildlife.  CITES warns the growing involvement of organized crime groups increases the risks faced by enforcement officers such as park rangers.

The conference is not just a talking shop.  It has teeth.  CITES is a legally binding treaty.  So, officials say anything decided at the conference will have a concrete impact on citizens, businesses and governments in 90 days when the new rules come into effect. (VOA)